Shadowlight Productions Stars with Poro Onya:The Myth of the Aynu

21 Jan

ShadowLight Productions presented the last six performances of the hour-long Poro Oyna: The Myth of the Aynu, at at Fort Mason’s Southside Theater, Building D, January 16-19,2014. Developed and performed over a three-year period in Hokkaido, a Dartmouth College appearance preceded San Francisco, the only two venues in the United States. Who gutted the Asia Society’s Performing Arts Program?

Larry Reed, guiding light, director and puppet master behind ShadowLight Productions, has produced a formidable series of productions mingling the wayang kulit tradition of Bali with other Asian and native American artists and material. In Xanadu, concerning Kublai Khan and his wife Chabui,was one; another was The Good-for-Nothing Lover, Chinese tale in which Wan Chao Chang appeared. Reed has presented at least ten productions, models of cross-cultural collaboration of story, collaborators, music and decor.

Poro Oyna is most unusual, concerning the Aynu myth of creation. There seem to be cultural similarities to the Pacific Northwest Indian traditions in the rounded square patterns, handsome as all get out. With the movement style of Balinese puppets moving in profile, how Aynu Rakkur rescues the Sun Goddess from the Evil Monster unfolded in a fascinating mixture of Balinese style, Japanese and English narration, profile faces heavily outlined in black. The Evil Monster was huge, with more than one eye and hand-claws like a crab or lobster. He battled Aynu Rakkur, snub-nosed, a pint-sized hero by comparison, affording the puppeteer full opportunity to swish the puppets across the screen, up, down, around, somehow gleeful, while still being distinctly scary. Of course Aynu Rakkur triumphs in the end, but not before those huge swishes forward and back found their way across the illuminated screen. For suspense and adrenalin rushes, swash buckling is never out of style.

Reed’s colleagues included Koyano Tetsuro, a traditional Balinese mask dancer, preserving and promoting Indonesia’s traditional arts. He has studied both at Japan’s Tokai University and at Indonesia’s National University of Arts.

Kawamura Kohesai is another exponent of Balinese traditional arts of music and shadow puppetry.

From Japan, the collaborators included the Marewrew, a female singing group reviving, preserving and promoting traditional Ainu musical forms. Appearing before the performance in traditional costume, the indigo cloth of their full length garments marked with white curving yet geometrical shapes They
almost sculptural. Traditional tattoos on around the mouth adorned one of the ensemble.

Further collaborators included Watanabe Takashi and Uehara Aki, both credited with international artistic projects.

Caryl Kientz was the production’s tour manager, Gregor T. Kuhn and Robert Collins shared sound design and operation credits. Urotsutenoyako Bayagan produced Poro Oyna in Japan. The Japanese producers share the shadow theater tradition with museums, schools and local cultural halls in rural Japan, using the medium to mount local stories.

Larry Reed’s takes ShadowLight Productions on unique, exciting theatrical adventures with captivating results, energizing doers and viewers.

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